Category Archives: #nowplaying

VOTE

Step 1: VOTE.

Step 2: See that Steady Sounds is offering 10% off to shoppers wearing their “I Voted” stickers.

Step 3: Zoom on over and gleefully pick out a Vince Guaraldi/Bola Sete live album you didn’t know existed.

Step 4: Thank Marty for supporting democracy.

Step 5: Write a blog post encouraging others to vote, go to Steady Sounds, and thank Marty for supporting democracy.

In case you’re not clear on Virginia’s (shameful and transparent) voter I.D. laws, here’s the rundown of what you bring with you:

And here’s a delightful version of “Black Orpheus Suite” from Vince and Bola’s Live at El Matador album:

 

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Bonny Light Horseman

Very much looking forward to this Bonny Light Horseman album. My pre-order is in, two A+ singles are out so far — “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” — and M.C. Taylor has declared it “the best album I’ve heard in years.”

The group is made up of Tony collector Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (of Fruit Bats, which I’ve been getting to know quite a bit this year), and producer/instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, and they’ve set their collective sights on traditional songs that have been kicking around the British Isles for generations — super exciting if you’re like me and enjoy the conversation between the past and present this kind of album can generate. I love the sense of dimensionality you get from hearing how songs have been interpreted over the years. It’s not about judging or comparing or picking favorite versions. It’s about finding the thread that connects them, and grasping it as a means of revealing how much we have in common with people who lived before us, or who live on the other side of the world.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a couple other versions of “Bonny Light Horseman” and “Deep in Love” I’ve been bouncing back and forth between. I can’t speak to how prominently these renditions sit lineage-wise, but I think you’ll get a kick out of them. In each case, we’ll start with the newest version and work our way backward.

Bonny Light Horseman — “Bonny Light Horseman”

Just stunning. Mitchell singing lead, saxophone adding color throughout by echoing the narrator’s displacement. I’ve listened to this dozens of times. Feels like I’ve always known it.

Siobhan Miller – “Bonny Light Horseman”

Here’s a very nicely captured live version led by Scotland’s Siobhan Miller, who recorded the song for her 2017 album Strata.

Planxty — “The Bonny Light Horseman”

Enjoying this lament but lamenting that it’s not jauntier? Planxty’s got you covered. (Recorded in the late 1970’s, from what I can tell.)

Bonny Light Horseman — “Deep in Love”

Johnson takes the lead here, and what an ideal vehicle this is for his singing. The flexibility and understated expressiveness that distinguish his voice are in full force here. Message and messenger in perfect alignment.

Matt Quinn — “Deep in Love”

An a cappella version from Sussex-based folk singer Matt Quinn. Released in 2017. A great glimpse into the source material BLH pulled from.

Gladys Stone — “Deep in Love”

This one’s for my real folk nerds. I see you over there flipping through the Folkways section, trying to decide whether you need field recordings of seagulls and butter being churned. (You do. We all do.)

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Sherman Holmes

If you’ve been reading this here blog for a minute, you know I’m a big fan of the work done by the folks at Overcoast — especially their collaborations with Virginia Tourism. I loved the videos they made with Mighty Joshua and Dharma Bombs, and I’m transfixed this clip featuring singer Sherman Holmes, formerly of the Holmes Brothers Band.

Just vocals and guitar, the tune (I couldn’t find a title — maybe you know what it’s called, dear reader?) unfolds deliberately. In concert with the immeasurable depth of Holmes’ voice, the pacing leaves you hanging on each word, and it provides space for you to envision the details the lyrics describe, like the intricate scene painted in the second verse:

A gilded frame and your picture
A covered lane and your rapture
A crowded room and your laughter
A band of gold on your finger

It’s amazing how a collection of objects — a lyrical still-life — can convey such an affecting sense of time.

If you enjoy the clip, be sure to check out Holmes’ 2017 album The Richmond Sessions, which was recorded at Montrose Studios with the help of an outstanding collection of collaborators, including dobro legend Rob Ickes, Devonne Harris of Butcher Brown, and storied Richmond gospel ensemble the Ingramettes.

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Carl Broemel

Happy 4th of July? I’ll probably say that handful of times today, but this one doesn’t feel so happy. It’s hard to dial the patriotism up to 11 when your country is doing this, and your president is celebrating like this.

I put Carl Broemel’s beautiful and largely subdued 4th of July album on the turntable this morning, thinking that spinning it meant marking the occasion with an appropriate level of exuberance. The cover art certainly hits the mark, with damp coloring and a Statue Of Liberty that registers as distant and off-balance. Still, I didn’t expect to find lyrics that spoke so directly to the current political moment:

So many people are awake in the city
I see ’em walking up and down the road
Think eventually they will be sleeping
Try to find a quiet place to go
But there’s a limited number of spaces
With comfy mattresses and soft pillows
Whether your bed is just a spot on the pavement
Or an apartment on the eighty-fifth floor

You’re gonna end everyday of your life
Lying there in the dark

I’ve always thought “In the Dark” was a very pretty song about insomnia and/or death and/or the way solipsism actually unites us in a weird way. Now it feels like a meditation on conscience — the idea that at the end of the day, and at the end of our lives, we all have to reckon with what we’ve done to that point. Maybe that’s a good way to “celebrate” this year’s Independence Day.

(Might I also suggest streaming Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” a few times, or directly supporting the organization to which Apple has pledged two years of “Criminal” royalties?)

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David Shultz & the Skyline

A lot can go wrong when a record is delivered to your house. Loose packaging. Careless handling. Somehow sun and rain are both problematic, which seems wildly unfair, given that those are, like, the two main things weather does.

By contrast, WarHen Records just raised the bar for how right a record delivery can go. A bag of crab chips. A Northern Neck ginger ale. The snazzy new pressing of David Shultz & the Skyline’s 2009 Rain in to the Sea album I preordered after playing it repeatedly via Bandcamp during a long weekend on the Jersey Shore with family. Here’s a shot of everything Mrs. YHT found on the porch in the early morning hours of June 14:

For context, Shultz’s recent show posters have featured a scene nearly identical to the one pictured above:

Just amazing. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of pure delight at seeing that poster come to life. It was a truly indelible moment — something I’ll smile about every time I spin Rain in to the Sea, and not just because I FUCKING LOVE CRAB CHIPS. (They were gone before the weekend was out.) WarHen has always overdelivered when it comes to shipping records, from thank you notes and stickers to bonus downloads. I’m proud to call myself a loyal customer of theirs, and I recommend heading here to pick up one of the last few available copies of Rain in to the Sea. And if you haven’t already, be sure to snag Butcher Brown’s AfroKuti: A Tribute To Fela — another dynamite WarHen release.

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I Barritas

My version of church this Easter Sunday: a sideways but endearingly sincere take on the Catholic mass via an Italian psych/beat/rock band called either I Barritas, The Berets, or The Little Berets, depending on which part of the liner notes you’re looking at.

A quick snippet of those liner notes, which were written in March of 1969:

All over the world, adults have been and are concerned about the seemingly increasing lack of concern by today’s youth, of spiritual and moral values. Perhaps this is not really so. Perhaps, they simply don’t accept ours and are searching for new ways of expression which relate to their own everyday lives. With the new music of the pop field has come a new spirit, which has suggested an intense need for peace, war against violence, freedom for all peoples, a struggle against prejudice, against any special privilege or advantage … which motivates the youth of the whole world.

It is a good or bad sign that those words ring so true 50 years later? It’s hard to say. But Easter is about hope and new beginnings and who knows … maybe 2069 will be a little better than 2019.

 

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Oregon

Thought I’d pass along an interesting Goodwill find — Winter Light, an album released in 1974 by the jazz ensemble Oregon.

I picked it up in late March, and I can’t seem to file this thing away. The sounds are so varied that it always feels like I’m getting a fleeting glance at something. Songs dart back and forth between classical, jazz, folk, and fusion. Sounds from varied musical traditions show up, disappear, and reappear like pedestrians criss-crossing a quiet intersection at night. A quick list of the instruments mentioned in the liner notes: English horn, French horn, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bass, piano, violin, flute, classical guitar, 12-string guitar, tabla (one of my absolute favorite drum sounds in the world), pakhawaj (another Indian drum), sitar, congas, clay drums, hands (sure, why not), and some dulcimer for good measure. Guess it wasn’t such a quick list. And it’s all credited to members of the four-person ensemble.

You’d think the result would be cluttered or overwhelming, but there’s never too much going on at once. Just one thought-provoking small arrangement after another, each sonically distant enough from what came before that it feels like the music is constantly in motion. The album’s title strikes me as especially fitting in that sense.

Here’s the opening track, “Tide Pool.”

 

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